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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  September 28, 2009 1:00pm-2:00pm EDT

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right now on "andrea mitchell reports" iran flexes its military muscle. test-firing a missile capable of hitting israel and u.s. bases in the persian gulf, as well as
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parts of europe. this just days before a key meeting is set to begin between iran, the united states and other major world powers in geneva. the u.s. wants tough economic sanctions. will there be a united front? washington is waiting for action and response from two key allies that have supported iran in the past, russia and china. jts and new threats from iran, if israel launches an attack, iran's defense minister warns it will quote expedite israel's last breath. plus u.s. secretary of defense, robert gates said he will not give president obama's general mcchrystal's request for more troops. good day, i'm andrea mitchell, i'm live in new york and we have an exclusive interview with cuba's foreign minister, moments after he addresses the general assembly. meanwhile, intelligence experts say that iran may be hiding up to a dozen more secret underground facilities. and the united states is demanding to get u.n. weapons inspectors into the country as
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soon as possible. it's the big story at the white house. so let's get to nbc news white house correspondent, savannah guthrie. hey, savannah. >> hi, andrea. >> going into the talks, what does the president, what does the administration think that they have so far from russia and then of course, china? >> reporter: well they've been pretty encouraged by russia's response so far and openness to sanctions. but of course, is devil is in the details with both regard to russia and china. everybody knows you can't get the sanctions you want without them on board. so the question is, how tough sanctions would russia and china be willing to go along with. and there's something of a balancing act, too. i mean they don't have want to have sanctions that are so onerous that they provoke a backlash within the iranian street. at a moment where frankly there's a real power struggle there, there's a fragile protest movement the. so those are all the competing factors that will be on the administration's mind as it heads to geneva next week.
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>> if the president wanted to know what's in the afghanistan report, he could read the "washington post," watch nbc and all the other networks. everyone knows what's in the report. so i was a little surprised by the defense secretary saying i'm not going to give it to him. is that going to give him deniability so he doesn't have to make a decision on troop strength? it seems a little bit artificial. >> reporter: it seems to be form over function. certainly the assessment is out in the public domain and the president has had that for a while. but in terms of the specific troop request, i think what mr. gates is saying i'm not going it start the bureaucratic ball rolling on the troop request, because i want to get the strategy right first. there's a big meeting tomorrow, the defense secretary robert gates will be there, secretary of state clinton will be there. so there's a feeling that the administration is looking hard at all of the options and is not necessarily going to stick to this counter-insurgency
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terrorism, counter-insurgency strategy, just because it's one they announced in march. i think they're looking at all the options. >> i quite surprised to hear general mcchrystal telling cbs on "60 minutes" last night he's only had one conversation with president obama. you would think the commander of the field would be in closer and more frequent communication with the president. >> reporter: yeah, i thought that was a moment that stuck out like a sore thumb. a thumb that had republicans sort of gripe about it privately. wait a minute, why isn't there more connection with the battlefield, something that white house officials would push back on. saying that the president thinks about afghanistan every day. is well-briefed by his team. but that was a moment. mcchrystal did the interview for "60 minutes," a profile that was largely flattering to him. but that was one moment that really stuck out, wait a minute, the president having only spoke to him once since he took control on the ground there. >> you broke the story on the "today show," that the president
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will be joining michelle obama leading the team going to co copenhagen to make the big pitch for chicago to get the olympics. what is the calculus there, because some might say it's great that he's doing it for the olympics and we can certainly understand that. but you think that they will face any criticism with everything else on his plate, that he is doing something that is a little bit -- you know, off from health care, afghanistan, iran and the like? >> reporter: yeah. i mean certainly there are folks that are saying that. i've definitely heard that, how can the president fly off to copenhagen. i think what they would say, look, he's going to be on the ground what, four or five hours. this is an occasion where they feel the time change is on their side. so he'll go in there and needless to say, he got some very intense lobbying on the part of chicago, who really feel that this will make a difference in the way it was set up, he would have been the only world
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leader not to attend on behalf of his country. his city. so i think they felt, look, we can do this quick. it's in and out and it will make a huge difference for chicago, the president's home town. >> now i understand. because if the other world leaders are there, clearly the president of the united states has to be there as well. savannah guthrie, thank you so much. and here in new york at the united nations cuba's prime minister said cuba is ready to normalize relations with the united statesnd wants to work with washington. i sat down with the cuban minister today after the speech and asked him what more he wants to see from president obama. thank you so much, minister, thanks for letting us come and join you today at your mission. you just finished speaking to the general assembly. and while you said there was great hope with the beginning of the election of barack obama, the concrete facts have not supported those hopes. what do you want to see from the united states? what do you think has not
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happened that you still want to see? >> president obama's statement was remarkable. i could say courageous. his problem is how to meet his discourse with the reality. it's a big problem and i understand he has many difficult priorities. and cuba couldn't be among them. but for many it's climate change, for the economic global crisis and others. obama put on high expectations, the whole international community. and maybe the american people. the real problem is to make progress on these ideas. >> and what do you want to see from the united states on the trade embargo on cuba? he's already permitted cuban-americans to travel home more freely.
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they can send money back. so he has eased the trade restrictions and the travel restrictions in particular. what more would you like the united states to do on the trade embargo? >> yeah. it's maybe same problem. i feel that president obama has a new kind of president, is a willing and decent person. hard-working, and a smart politician. but in the case of cuba, we have same situation. facts don't meet with discourse. firstly, president obama may have some steps last april, but only targeting the most ambitious frustrations applied by president bush to cuban-americans and the cuban family in both sense, on both sides. but at the same time, these measures are extremely limited. and insufficient.
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and leaves the embargo system intact to this very moment. >> you say that it's limited, the steps that he's taken. >> extremely limited. >> but he did ease restrictions on travel by cuban americans. should cuba now do something in response? what the united states wants is to the release of prisoners of conscience. and amnesty international said there are still 58 prisoners. other human rights groups say there are more. will cuba be willing to release some prisoners in exchange for the fact that the president has eased the travel restrictions on cuban-americans? >> freedom to travel for american citizens is not on my view an embargo issue or a bilateral issue. i think that is a freedom of travel issue for american citizens. i thought that it was a constitutional right.
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i can't imagine that difficult undertaking contrast. having, granting cuban-americans these constitutional rights. but refusing them to american citizens. secondly, i don't know which is your definition on prisoner of conscience, or political prisoner. i could say in cuba, are in prisons convicted in ordinary tribunals, not kind of military commissions of guantanamo, et cetera. but an ordinary process. due process, on the basis of preexisting or previously-established ordinary laws. for asians or reporting power. if the american penal laws sanction these people against the constitutional order, we have the same. >> do you accept amnesty
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international as a well-regarded international organization? this is not the united states making this contention. this is an international group saying there are 58 prisoners. >> amnesty international is an international n.g.o. everyone knows who are the financiers of this organization. everyone knows its close relation with a highly politicized agenda on human rights. but i could recognize good positions for instance on the embargo on cuba by the amnesty. but the, my bottom line is, is that we have prisoners of conscience, we have in prison agents of a foreign power, u.s. government, funding or financing them. on basis of direct encroachment, encouragement by the u.s.
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government. but we put they will over in the hands of through the correct channels through the hands of fair countries. and publicly, the five cuban political prisoners and the u.s. territories. they are called the cuban five. >> they're still in miami. >> or the five. the only motivation for this approach and vicious violation of the due process of the law -- case, is absolutely political. president obama could free them as an act of justice. and as a token of his commitments in the fight against, against terrorism. and we're ready for having a quid pro quo. and to receive our five cubans,
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and if the u.s. government is interested in having these, these foreign agents in cuban prisons. >> thank you very much, mr. minister. at a point, obviously an important turning point between the united states and cuba. it's very good of you to join us today. >> my pleasure. thank you to you. and we had some camera difficulties with our satellite truck there. we'll have the entire interview, you can watch the entire interview with the cuban foreign minister on and throughout the rest of the program. coming up, should president obama cancel this week's talks with iran in light of today's long-range missile tests? congressman peter ho er hoek st joins us next. all. i eat this fiber one yogurt. (mr. mehta) it has five grams of fiber, zero fat, and fifty calories. please, this is too creamy and delicious. it's true, only fifty calories.
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welcome back. robert gibbs is now briefing and has already said that the iranian missile tests are not provocative as far as the united states is concerned, because they were planned in advance. let's watch. >> and insure that whatever it does, is in the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy. >> is there anything specific that they can do on october 1st to demonstrate that? >> sure. they can, as i just said, agree to the immediate unfettered access. i think that would be the least that they can do. jeff, keep in mind, this is an important day. and an important week for the iranians. they have decisions to make. they have one of two paths that they can take. they can continue the path that they've been on. even while the world is shown conclusive intelligence about a
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facility. or it can make a decision to step away from its nuclear weapons program. and build confidence in the world and be, and enter into a meaningful relationship with the world. based on their own security, but not based on nuclear weapons. yes, sir? >> back in june when you were asked about whether or not the deadline to close down gitmo could be reached, absolutely, over the weekend i'm sure you heard the secretary of defense saying that it's going to be tough. what happened? >> well, i would believe the secretary. he always trumps me. >> i'm sure he does. what happened between the absolutely and -- >> i think we're continuing to make progress. i think we've had more and more people transferred out of guantanamo bay. i think first and foremost, look
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what you saw this weekend. you had second gates and senator mccain both believing strongly, as the president believes, that we have to shut guantanamo bay. that it makes us safer. it improves our image around the world. obviously we've still got work to do. work that's progressing in reforming military commissions. and in locating a permanent detention facility for those that would remain. >> is the white house resigned to the fact that that deadline is not being met? >> we're not focused on whether the deadline will or will not be met on a particular day. we're focused on insuring that the facility will be closed between now and the 22nd of january and make as much progress as possible. >> and one more question on the troops in afghanistan, how close is the president i guess to reviewing his assessment,
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strategy and making a decision on whether or not more troops should be sent in? >> well again, i think you've got good video from secretary gates on cnn, just this weekend. who mentioned that this was going to be a very deliberative process on the president's part. i assume that any decision is a number of weeks away. i think you saw secretary gates say that a resource request that he gets will not be sent here to the white house until he believes, and the president believes, that we're in a position having reached a concensus on moving forward. how best to resource that concensus. yes, ma'am? >> what can you tell us about the lobbying effort behind the scenes that the president may have already started with the ioc. >> i don't know if it's much behind the scenes if you're asking me about it. i think obviously the president
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has mentioned this in meetings when we were at the u.n. and at the g-20. he'll continue to talk to people, including in person in copenhagen in an effort to bring the 2016 olympics to the united states. >> what's his best pitch? what is he telling them? >> well, look, i think having spent sometime in chicago, ig think it is, it's a perfect place to hold the olympics. it is, it offers a great place for the world to see. it offers all the amenities that one would want in the olympics. and i think far and away, it's the strongest bid of the four that are out there. >> what if he goes and he doesn't get it? >> well you can call tommy on saturday. >> they cannot focus any more on a particular day.
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does that mean that the deadline -- >> well, no, i'm -- i thought the question was, were there a lot of people over here obsessing about whether or not that particular day was going to be met. rather than obsessing about getting it done and that's what the focus is. >> if you're not focused or obsessing, focused if you're not focused on a particular day, there's no longer a deadline? >> that's no longer true. the deadline is still there. we want to get it done. i think secretary gates made a very compelling case of what happens in this town when you don't set a deadline. nothing gets done. i think there's no doubt that we're making significant progress. that there's bipartisan agreement. that we need to get something done. to close this facility. that it will improve our own security. it will help our standing in the world. and that's what the administration is focused on. >> on sanctions with -- bite as
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the president calls them. do you have any commitments yet, have you made any progress over the last couple of days with russia and china, to support sanctions? you can't get them without them, right? >> we're focused on, we're focused on thursday. we're focused on and understand this -- there has never been a stronger international concensus to address iran and its nuclear weapons program, than there is right now. you say the comments last week. you heard directly from the russian president about this. we are focused on the meeting on thursday. and we hope iran is focused on its obligations internationally. we're not going to get far ahead of ourselves as to what happens beyond that. we're focused right now on this meeting this week. >> you need russia and china's support. no matter how strong it is now, if you don't get them on board.
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>> well, chip, two weeks ago, no one ever thought we'd be where we are right now with an international concensus that something has to be done. and that iran has to live up to its international obligations. >> how concerned is the president that any sanctions with bite are going to end up biting the iranian people harder than -- >> well you're a couple of -- >> he's got to be thinking about this. if you're thinking about particular sanctions, they're going to hurt the iranian people who have been through so much already. >> i'm not going to get into a lot of conjecture about what happens. >> one more question on copenhagen. the president said i think it was 12 days ago on the south lawn. i would make the case for copenhagen -- are you saying copenhagen or copenhagen? >> i say copenhagen. but i don't know if i should be the arbiter of -- denmark is good. >> i would make the case in
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copenhagen personally, if i weren't so committed to making real the promise of affordable health care to every american. he sounded pretty clear that 12 days ago he was not going to go. what changed his mind? was it health care that changed? does it look like it's in better shape? >> i think the president believes that health care is in better shape. i believe he felt strongly and personally, that he should go and make the case for the united states. and that's what he's going to do. >> and he's not worried about health care as he seems to be just 12 days ago, suffering if he went? >> i think he believes he can do this and get back in time. >> a couple of questions. first afghanistan. tomorrow you guys have a meeting, the president is having a meeting with the secretary of state, secretary of defense. obviously on afghanistan, is there an -- is that where he's going to lay out a timetable for making his strategy review decision? no. i think i --
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>> can you lay out a little bit of this agenda, just hearing ideas? what is -- can you give a little more description. >> he's not going to have a meeting. it's a meeting agenda. we're going through the process of assessing where we are, what's changed. what needs to happen. where we need to go. this isn't going to be finished in one meeting. it's not going to be finished in several meetings. but this is the beginning of a process for making some eventual temperatur determinations. understanding that when the president came into office, he asked that the policy be reviewed. in late march, in the lead-up to the elections, the president requested 21,000 additional troops be sent to afghanistan. the end of that number is beginning to get to afghanistan now. but i think again, as you heard secretary gates say over the weekend, we've, in that time
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period, we've had an election that has thus far been inconclusive. and the united states has not predetermined who the winner might be. and secondly, secretary gates said that the assessment of conditions on the ground were worse than previously assumed. >> so you -- the president cited the election, the uncertainty surrounding the election. can you do, can you fully carry out or at least talk, roll out a new strategy before there's certainty? >> that's one of the things that's going to be discussed over the course of the next several weeks. >> you might wait to see -- >> i'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what may or may not happen. i think that's what the meetings are for. >> secretary of education today talked about the possibility of the interview, the possibility of seeing the school day expanded, shorter summer vacations. how can the federal government
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influence that? >> i would direct you to the secretary of education. obviously i assume there are incentives that can be given. obviously these are state decisions. but there are incentives that could be given. you could test grants for all-day schools. i'm sorry, year-round schools. you could do any of those types of things. >> the president's support in -- >> i think the president has talked in the past about the fact that we have to try new things in education to insure that we're doing everything we can to educate as best as possible, the workforce for tomorrow. whether that's the president was a big believer and a leader in the illinois state senate in expanding the number of charter schools, something that secretary duncan has done. and i think the president believes strongly in education reform agenda and has somebody at the department of education that's implementing it. >> a white house press
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conference, saying that iran's missile tests are provocative and united nations needs unfettered success to the nuclear fuel plants. joining us now, michigan congressman peter hoekstra ranking congressman on the intelligence committee. what did your posture, going into these meetings on thursday as to what the united states should try to achieve? >> well obviously we want to move the ball down the field. i think the interesting thing here was the decision that the obama administration made perhaps weeks or mondays months ago, that they wanted to enter into these talks with iran, probably being fully aware that the secret facility existed. and they were willing to move forward unconditionally. now that they've committed to doing these meetings or this meeting on thursday, they've probably have no choice but to meet, move forward, even though they, the iranians engaged in the missile tests over the weekend. the disclosure of this facility became more public.
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but you know, they're locked in. they've got to go on thursday. and then let's see what comes out of that. >> robert gates said over the weekend that there is really no military option. that it would slow them down, but it would not eliminate the nuclear program. senator feinstein and the senate intelligence chair, said the same thing. is it your conclusion as well, that there really is no military option, that the only option is to align the world against iran through tough sanctions? >> yeah, i made that observation probably four months ago. that the question now, with iran or the questions we now need to deal with iran, is realizing that they're going to have a nuclear weapon. the only question is when. and then, how the rest of the world is going to respond to a nuclear iran. the united states has not had an effective strategy to delay or confront the development of a nuclear weapon in iran. the world appears to have been ready only if there's dramatic action.
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probably something short of military action. over the coming weeks, over the coming months. would we be able to stop iran from getting nuclear weapons. but i think it's very, very unlikely. >> do you think that the, the sanctions can be made tough enough to hurt iran without hurting the iranian people? >> no. i think that if you put tough economic sanctions on what a regime like this will do with the regimes in north korea have done, is they will make sure that it is the iranian people that will be hurting. that will then give them the opportunity to go on international television and show how if we get tough sanctions, how what the russians the chinese, the americans and what the europeans are doing is hurting the iranian people and is really not stopping or changing their strategic direction. of course the iranian government will make sure that it is their people, that are the ones that suffer. and that they will probably not change their strategy.
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>> so what are the options then? what account u.s. do? and do you think that russia will eventually come on board and then china? >> well i'm still very skeptical that the russians and the chinese are going to come on board. if they were really serious about making sure that iran did not acquire nuclear weapons, they would have come on board a long time ago. they chose not to do that. our options are very, very limited. because there's not that concensus in the world community, that a nuclear iran is a bad thing. they may, i think what you see is the russians and the chinese may be neutral to it. or maybe they're finally getting to the point where they're saying, wow, this is really going to happen. but it may be too late. i'm not sure there are any good options at this point in time. a pretty grim outlook there. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> it's always good to talk to you. we appreciate it. and coming up, reaction from inside iran to today's missile
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tests. plus former president, bill clinton warns the vast right-wing conspiracy that his presidency is alive and well. ab. ab. consider this... the express route. v8. what's your number? everyone's talking about them. and now we can actually do something about them. at wal-mart, their prices are unbeatable. over 300 prescriptions are just four dollars. four dollars. imagine that. how can you get your retirement plans back on track? consider oppenheimerfunds, whether the markets are up or down, we follow a consistent investment approach. ask your advisor about oppenheimerfunds. and see how our numbers can help you reach your destination. call your advisor for a prospectus with complete fund information. read it carefully and carefully consider
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and keeps it under control all day or all night. sometimes you gotta make compromises, man. no, you don't... man. pepcid complete, works now and works later. in geneva, iran says it has successfully test-fired missiles capable of reaching israel and parts of the persian gulf and europe. enrichment of uranium. nbc's ali aruzzi joins us now from iran. what is the latest reaction inside iran to the missile firings and coming talks with the u.s. and allies? >> reporter: well, andrea, i'm surprised here that the tone here hasn't been more defiant. iran's foreign ministry spokesman said these missiles were part of a long-planned
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routine military exercise and that they, that they were, the defensive mechanism and they had nothing to do with the controversy over the newly-discovered nuclear site. however, iran's controversy defense minister, who is wanted by interpol for the bombing of a jewish center in buenos aires in 1994, was quoted on state television as saying in the unlikely event of israel attacking iran, it would be the zionist regime's last breath. andrea? >> of course, they can say what they want about it being long-planned, but the missile tests, the timing of it, coming immediately after everything blew up at the u.n. last week and the allies are now having these talks october 1st, certainly it does raise the temperature before these negotiations begin. >> it certainly does raise the temperature. iran reflecting the military muscle. they're showing a strong hand before they go into the negotiations. the general was quoted today as
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saying the missile tests show that iran is a force to be reckoned with. iran has also accused the united states of trying to stack the odds against them before the crucial meeting in geneva on thursday, with outing this nuclear site. saying that this was only a psychological game. so i'm sure on the iranian side, this is also a psychological game, to show their strength. >> of course it could always back-fire, it could get more support from russia for the u.s. position, if the russians don't like ha they see in terms of the timing of the missile tests. thanks so much, ali, good to see you, be safe. israel's prime minister, benjamin netenyahu wants house speaker nancy pelosi and other leaders to push for crippling sanctions against iran. let's bring in democratic strategist, steve mcmahon and republican strategist and former new york congresswoman, susan
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molinari, welcome to you both. first to you, susan, the administration is realrily in a spot here. so far they've getting a lot of praise for the way they've handled this. iran makes a partial limited disclosure on monday. the u.s. is notified by tuesday. by tuesday afternoon here in the united nations in new york, president obama is organizing the allies, beginning on wednesday to brief president mev vev of russia. he seems to have lined up a lot of support going into these talks. >> yes. look. we all want to stand behind our president at a time like this. this is a very frightening time in our geopolitical history. i think the proof is going to be in the pudding in terms of where do we go with strong economic sanctions. how much protection do we offer our closest ally, israel. do we really get it? and the ultimate, you know, game-changer i think for all of us, and certainly for president obama, is if he is able through all of this capitulation with the russians in the past, are
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able to get the russians to put forth a stronger statement of condemnation and to join the strong international sanctions, which they seem to be backing away from. i think the next few days, if not the next few hours are going to tell us how successfully president obama is on the world stage under very, very difficult circumstances. this is not something that you know, this is something i think we all wish him tremendous success on. >> steve, already we've seen some republican criticism, peter hoekstra was hinting at that earlier. saying there shouldn't have been talks with iran given what we knew for several years about the secret plant. is the president vulnerable to that from the right? >> i think the right is basically what took us into war in iraq. and it's the right that's been in charge of american foreign policy for some years. which is one of the reasons that america is so reviled around the world. the truth is you can't ignore people like mahmoud ahmadinejad. because if they get nuclear weapons, they're a threat to the
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region, they're a threat to the united states of america and they're a threat to the world. so simply ignoring them and hoping they go away, hasn't been a very effective strategy to date and i would suggest it's not a very effective strategy going forward. notwithstanding what congressman hoekstra says. >> let's take a look at what hillary clinton had to say on "face the nation" about sanctions. >> we're exploring how you broaden and deepen sanctions. now sanctions are already in place, as you know. but like many sanction regimes, they're leaky. but in the last eight months since we've been dealing with north korea on a similar set of issues, we have forged an international concensus around very tough sanctions. >> at this stage, do you think that there's general agreement, susan, on capitol hill that sanctions are the way to go, and that there shouldn't be a push for military action, especially with robert gates saying they wouldn't work? >> well that's right. i think right now the conversation on capitol hill is
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, international sanctions can be. [ inaudible ] [ inaudible ] they couldn't have president clinton. secretary of state clinton and president obama, in terms of bringing the international community together. the criticism has always been that president bush wasn't able to do this because they didn't like us and they didn't like the you state. well i guess now we're going to find out is it better to be feared and not liked or liked and though not feared. if president obama can bring the coalition together with sanctions that can avoid the pathway to war, while stopping the nuclear proliferation on behalf of iran, then he will have accomplished great things. but that's a high bar to set right now. >> and iran's ahmadinejad was not the only world leader on the stage getting a lot of attention at the united nations. there was also muammar gadhafi, all 95 seconds of him and this is the way "saturday night live" portrayed it on saturday night.
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>> on top of this mind-bending jet lag i have always been having problems with my giant tent. those of you who do not know, when i travel, i have a large tent that i like to bring with me. for this, i am scorned as some kind of weirdo. despite my high diplomatic station, my tent and i were turned away by central park, westchester county, and worst of all, engelwood, new jersey. imagine me,ed world's -- >> ha was just make us all feel a little bit better. on a slightly more serious subject, on "meet the press," there was bill clinton talking to david gregory about the great right-wing conspiracy. and interesting reaction, let's watch. >> your wife famously talked about the vast right-wing conspiracy targeting you. as you look at the opposition on the right to president obama, is it still there? >> oh, you bet. sure it is. it's not as strong as it was, because america has changed
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demographically. but it's thoroughness as it was. they may be hurting president obama, they can take his numbers down, they can run his opposition up. but fundamentally he and his team have a positive agenda for america. they're agenda seems to be wanting him it fail and that's not a prescription for a good america. >> steve mcmahon, is there a great right-wing conspiracy after barack obama? >> well, obviously former president clinton thinks there might be a right-wing conspiracy. i think what you see in washington today is partisanship. you see it today just as much as you saw it four years ago and 16 years before that, for that matter. president clinton experienced it and he knows what it feels like. i think president bush, former president bush certainly experienced it and now president obama is. that's the price of trying to do things. i agree with him on the merits about this administration has a positive agenda for the country and so far, the republicans have chosen just to say no to everything that the obama administration wants to bring forward. and it will be interesting, if he's able to bring china and russia together on strong
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sanctions against iran, whether the republicans will find some way to criticize that as well. or whether they will praise him as they should. >> steven mcmahon, susan molinari, thank you. and straight ahead, defense secretary robert gates warns against setting a limit for u.s. troops in afghanistan. when it comes to things you care about, leave nothing to chance travelers. insurance for auto, home and business. [screeching] [dejectedly] oh. [screeching] [barks]
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so, who's the winner now? order now and you can get an extra three weeks of awesome meals. that's right, you can get an extra 21 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and snacks free. call or click now. should the president decide on the numbers of troops first or the strategy first? that's the big question when whe it comes to the war in afghanistan, the top u.s. commander in afghanistan is said to want an additional 40,000 troops. last night on "60 minutes," general stanley mcchrystal was asked whether he's confident eel get what he's asked for. >> i'm confident that i will have an absolute chance to provide my assessment and it make my recommendations. >> but you're already under pressure. not to ask for more. i mean how does that affect what you do?
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>> it doesn't affect me at all. and david, i take this extraordinarily seriously. >> the "washington post's" rajiv sandrakanarian joins us. let's talk what we saw last night on 6 "60 minutes" and wha general mcchrystal said and robert gates said. what do you see shaping up as they go into this critical national security council meeting tomorrow? >> as you pointed out earlier, there are two big real issues here, right. there's the overall question of the strategy. what is the u.s. goal, how does the u.s. accomplish that. it had been decided earlier, that the strategy was really focusing on al qaeda. but implementing a much broader counterinsurgency strategy that involved protecting the afghan people, doing elements of nation-building.
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and now there's also the mcchrystal troop request that's going to make its way to the white house and factor into the discussions. what i keep hearing is that what the white house wants to do first and foremost and actually also what defense secretary gates wants done, is a discussion about strategy and goals first. and then getting to the issue of how many more troops of any get sent over to afghanistan? >> there seems to be a lot of signals in the administration that they're pulling back and rethinking the strategy that was outlined as recently as march. that they'll point to the election rut as one reason. and the other, changes on the ground. and figure out a way to configure a very much smaller deployment. >> indeed. i mean the election results have given the white house an awful lot of pause here. that's been you know, one of the principle game-changers between the earlier discussion about strategy in the spring and now. you know, how do you implement the counter insurgency strategy
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that includes partners with the afghan government, afghan security forces, if your afghan administration will sort of take office under a huge cloud of illegitimacy. so that's really pushing people who are part of these discussions to fundamentally question of wisdom of going forward with this broader, counterinsurgency strategy. and i should also note, andrea. that general mcchrystal's input is just one of many that will be coming into the white house here over the next week or so. there's been some inputs from general carl eikenberry, the u.s. ambassador there, going to be hearing from the intelligence committee and other inputs. >> outsiders like colin powell, good friends and close advisers, john kerry, jack weed and others from the senate. thank you so much, ravid from the "washington woest." earlier in this presidency, president obama took steps to ease u.s. travel restrictions to cuba for cuban-americans giving many cubans and cuban-americans much more hope for change in relations.
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more from my exclusive interview earlier today with the cuban foreign minister. what do you see as the possibility of normalizations between the united states and cuba? now that you have a new president here and a relatively new leadership in havana? >> i feel hope. i feel that president obama has a terrific opportunity. historical opportunity for leading a change in policy, in american policy, toward cuba. he can lead the process of lifting the embargo and i'm pretty sure that he could do it without any political risk or damage because american citizens, 76% of the last polls and a majority of cubans.
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>> and what political story will be making headlines in the next 24 hours? that's next. you can see the entire interview with the cuban foreign minister on been true since the my first dollar. where is that dollar? i got it out to show you... uhh... was it rather old and wrinkly? yeah, you saw it? umm fancy a crisp? geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
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what political story will be making headlines in the next 24 hours? chris cillizza, "washington post" white house reporter joins us live via skype. hi there, chris. what are you looking at? >> the senate finance committee is meeting again starting tomorrow as they continue to market the health care bill. this is a big day tomorrow. what we'll be watching, the public option. the debate over a government-run program. you have the chairman, max baucus, kent conrad, ver skeptical. on the other hand, democrats like chuck schumer and jay rockefeller very supportive. this is the first, not the last test of the public option. it's a substantial one and we want to keep an eye on it. predistrictor of things that co down the line. >> chris cillizza, either in captivity or in a understand disclosed location.
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read more on his blog. blog.washingtonpost. our friend, william safire, columnist for "the new york times" for an astounding 33 years. author and one-time speechwriter for richard nixon. mentor to generations of younger reporters. he died at a hospital of pancreatic cancer. he was 79. the "times" reprinted the classic how to read a column column. confidential sources an ax grinders who feed the pan docksy. he was an ill lit rative illusionist. he and his wife were planning to continue their 40-year tradition, tonight, this very night, to host a bevy of washington scribes to break the yom kippur path. he helped introduce me.
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he was an uncomparable words smith and friend. there will be another bill safire. we join with all of his friends at nbc news, particularly with the meet the press to the safire family. i hesitate to say more for fear safire's word police will come down and grab me. that's all for me. i'm andrea mitchell. contessa brewer picks up our reporting next.
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